Wednesday 29 August 2018

The Last Sontaran - SJA 2.1

In which strange lights are seen in the woods known as Goblin's Copse, where the Tycho Project is located. This is a radio telescope operated by Prof. Nicholas Skinner, designed to seek evidence of extraterrestrial intelligence. He works there alone, accompanied by his daughter Lucy. He goes outside to investigate but disappears. As Lucy searches for him, something captures her...
The following morning, Sarah Jane Smith interrupts her son Luke and his friend Clyde, who are using the computer Mr Smith to play a reenactment of the Battle of Waterloo for a school project. Sarah wants to know about the lights which were reported in the vicinity of the radio telescope.
Meanwhile, across the road, an important letter has arrived for Alan Jackson. It is a job offer, which would mean him having to move to Washington DC. He informs Maria, and tells her that they will only go if she agrees to it. Maria goes to see Sarah, but withholds the information about the potential move. They all head off to Goblin's Copse to investigate the lights.

The Tycho Project appears to be deserted. They then come upon Lucy, who tells them that her father has disappeared. Luke and Clyde agree to go and have a look around, and Sarah warns them to keep out of the woods. Once they have gone, Sarah asks Maria to tell her what is troubling her, and she informs her of the job offer letter. Sarah's attitude towards her then changes, becoming colder and more detached. Back in Bannerman Road, Alan informs his ex-wife Chrissie of the new job. The boys disobey Sarah's instructions and enter the woods. They are being watched by an invisible figure.
Prof. Skinner suddenly appears in the building, and Sarah observes that he is acting very strangely, and insists that she leave. She is called into the woods by Luke and Clyde, as they have discovered a large invisible object hidden there. Sarah uses her sonic lipstick to make it visible, and is shocked to see that it is a Sontaran spacecraft. The occupant of the ship - Commander Kaagh - appears and attacks them. They split up and hide. Sarah and Clyde return to the radio telescope, and discover that Skinner is under the Sontaran's mental control. Kaagh arrives, and informs them that he is the sole survivor of the 10th Sontaran battle fleet, which was destroyed by the Doctor after their attempt to poison the planet using ATMOS. He is going to take revenge by using the Tycho Project to disable the world's satellite network, causing them to crash onto nuclear power stations across the globe. When he threatens Clyde, Sarah attempts to intervene, but Kaagh shoots her...

She is only stunned. Kaagh wants to take her back to Sontar as his captive, otherwise he might be deemed a failure in the eyes of his people. Clyde manages to escape and joins Maria and Luke. Held in a storeroom with Lucy, Sarah begins to work on a device which will disable Kaagh's transmission to the satellites. The others go to the spaceship and break in. Maria tells Luke of her father's job offer. Luke devises a cocktail of chemicals which might disable the Sontaran. They know that they will have activated an intruder alarm, but hope that this will lure Kaagh away so that Sarah and Lucy can be rescued. Sarah activates her device and Skinner comes to investigate. They escape and lock him in the storeroom, then go to the control room to try to sabotage what he has been doing.

In the woods, Maria decides to call on her dad for help - asking him to go to Sarah's attic to consult Mr Smith on how to deal with Sontarans. When he does so, learning about the vulnerability of their probic vent, he is shocked to discover that Chrissie has followed him. Alan is forced to quickly tell her of their daughter's new secret life. Chrissie insists on accompanying Alan as he drives out to Goblin's Copse. Luke manages to overcome the signal to the satellites after working out that three-fingered aliens would use a mathematics based on the number 6. However, Lucy has been under Kaagh's control the whole time, and she undoes Luke's sabotage. Kaagh then threatens Maria, but he is struck on the back of the collar by a high-heeled shoe, wielded by Chrissie. She receives an electric shock, which stuns her. The radio transmission to the satellites is stopped for good. Kaagh is taken back to his ship a prisoner, humiliated that he was beaten by a woman and by children. His ship is preset to take him back to Sontar. He will be in deep space by the time he breaks free of his bonds.
A few week's later, Maria and her dad are ready to move away from Bannerman Road. Sarah is apologetic for being so distant towards Maria, as she was finding it hard to cope with losing a friend. Everyone thought that Chrissie had lost her memory when she received the electric shock, but she reveals to Sarah that she remembers it all - but will never speak of it. Maria and Alan leave...

The Last Sontaran was written by Phil Ford, and was first broadcast on 29th September 2008. (The first episode was shown on BBC 1, with the second following it immediately on the CBBC channel). It marks the start of the second series of The Sarah Jane Adventures, and acts as a sequel to the Sontaran two part story from the middle of Doctor Who's fourth series - The Sontaran Stratagem / The Poison Sky. The story sees the departure of the Jackson family from the series. This is because actress Yasmin Paige, who played Maria, was in the middle of her GCSE's, and wanted to concentrate on her studies. She and dad Alan (Joseph Millson) will have a cameo appearance later in the season, when they are contacted over the internet, but this is the last time we see Chrissie (Juliet Cowan).
Kaagh is played by Anthony O'Donnell. He is the survivor of a special tactical unit belonging to the fleet which the Doctor destroyed. This is why he has stealth technology - able to make himself and his ship invisible - and flying surveillance units (the lights which draw Sarah and her friends into the adventure). O'Donnel was recently seen in Russell T Davies' A Very English Scandal (playing Leo Abse), and was a regular in the comedy drama Stella.
The only other guest artists are Prof. Skinner and his daughter Lucy. He is played by Ronan Vibert, and she by Clare Thomas. Vibert has a number of genre credits to his name, having appeared in Penny Dreadful and Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell.

Overall, a great start to the new series, with the inclusion of an alien from the parent show, and a surprise departure for one of the main characters. Part one works best, as the second half is mostly capture / escape stuff.
Things you might like to know:

  • Sontarans were previously mentioned in the first series, when Bea Nelson-Stanley mentioned having encountered them with her husband back in the 1930's (Eye of the Gorgon).
  • Sontarans are a significant foe for Sarah, as they were the first aliens she ever encountered, barring the Doctor - meeting Commander Linx in The Time Warrior, then Field-Major Styre in The Sontaran Experiment not long after.
  • Sarah keeps Kaagh's blaster in her attic afterwards, and this will provide a plot point for a later story when Clyde features it in one of his paintings (Mona Lisa's Revenge).
  • The Sontaran spaceship was a reused prop, having previously been employed as the escape pod which the Doctor and Donna used to escape the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in The Fires of Pompeii
  • No mention is made of the traumatic events of The Stolen Earth / Journey's End, despite this adventure coming after that story (as Luke mentions Maria still being in England, but away from London when the Daleks invade). Kaagh has therefore been plotting his revenge for some time.

Monday 27 August 2018

Inspirations - The Green Death

January 1972 saw the publication of a special edition of The Ecologist magazine titled A Blueprint for Survival. It was later published in book form. The authors, Edward Goldsmith and Robert Allen, painted a bleak future for planet Earth if people did not start looking after the environment. Their recommendations on how to turn things around centred on a move towards smaller communities, which were less industrialised and more attuned to the local environment. Tribal communities were more socially cohesive and made less of an impact in ecological terms. A number of leading scientists signed their names to the text. One person whom we know read it - because he said that he did - was the producer of Doctor Who, Barry Letts. Letts claimed that reading the piece had made him depressed. Coming into the production office one morning, he told Terrance Dicks about it, and bemoaned the fact that they could not cover ecological issues in Doctor Who. Dicks paused for a moment, then told him that they could use the series to touch on ecological matters, in the context of a science fiction adventure.
As with the previous two seasons, Letts wanted to co-write the final story with his friend Robert Sloman. As it was, Letts provided some ideas but the story was pretty much all Sloman's work.
As well as concluding the tenth season, the story also had to act as a departure for Katy Manning, who had played Jo Grant for three years.

The basic set up was that pollution from a petrochemicals plant was mutating wildlife in the area, and this was spreading a deadly sickness. Sloman looked to his own pet phobias, and made the creatures being mutated maggots. Not only did he find these repulsive, but they were the larval stage for flies and bluebottles, so another creature could be introduced later in the scripts - one which had the potential to spread the disease across the whole country.
The giant maggots would be a secondary threat to what Sloman believed to be the main villains - the big businesses which operated polluting practices in the pursuit of profit, having little or no regard to how their products and processes affected local communities and the environment. Sloman's company became Global Chemicals, which - in the days before you could check these things simply through an internet search - turned out to be the name of a real company. The novelisation, by Malcolm Hulke, changed the name to Panorama Chemicals.
The director of Global Chemicals - Dr Stevens - would not be the head villain, however. There was someone above him - the unseen Boss, or BOSS. This would prove to be a supercomputer which was linked to Stevens' mind. Inspired by 2001: A Space Odyssey's HAL, Sloman gave the machine a personality and an ego. It wanted only to maximise profits for the company, and was prepared to turn its human workers into its mental slaves to achieve this.

Looking for a means to write Jo out, it was agreed that she should encounter a surrogate Doctor-figure. This was Professor Clifford Jones, leader of a commune close to Global's plant. He is young, good looking, and a brilliant scientist. At one point Jo actually tells the Doctor that Cliff reminds her of a younger him. Jo's first meeting with him mirrors her first encounter with the Doctor, in that she accidentally ruins one of his experiments. We mentioned under Frontier in Space how Jo had initially been hypnotised by the Master in that first story (Terror of the Autons), but had grown to the point that she could now resist him. The meeting with Prof. Jones is another way of showing the character of Jo coming full circle and growing up. Character development was a big thing for the Letts / Dicks era of the show, and other events in this story will feed into Season 11 stories.
For a start, the Doctor finally gets to the blue planet Metebelis III, first mentioned back in Carnival of Monsters. It turns out not to be the paradise he thought it, but he does manage to get his hands on one of its famous blue sapphires. This will, of course, have consequences later on.
The Brigadier has been tasked with protecting Global Chemicals from the hostility of the commune and from the local mining community, which has seen its traditional industry (coal mining) shut down. He spots Dr Stevens as a wrong 'un from the start, however, so has Captain Yates placed inside the firm under cover. At one point the Brigadier and Stevens go head to head, and Stevens calls up the government. The ecology minister slaps the Brigadier down, ordering him to do what Stevens orders. Mention is made of the Prime Minister - a man named Jeremy. This was inspired by Jeremy Thorpe, then leader of the Liberal Party, who might be PM in Doctor Who's near future / alternate universe.

The story has come in for a lot of criticism for its stereotyping of the Welsh. The story is set in the coal mining region of South Wales (Newport is said to be not that far away). Of course, the new version of the series is filmed in Wales, and uses just about every Welsh actor going, and has often been set in Wales - Cardiff especially, due to the Torchwood Rift being located there). This was only one of two stories in the classic era of the programme to be set in the country (the other being Delta and the Bannermen). The Letts / Dicks era has usually portrayed country people as dim-witted yokels, and the Welsh characters seen here are certainly stereotypes. One of the dead miners just has to have been a star rugby player, and there are many "Boyo's". People are named after their occupations (e.g. Jones the Milk is the milkman). Sloman may have taken inspiration from the works of writer AJ Cronin, who worked as a doctor in the Welsh valleys, becoming medical inspector for the mining industry. His best known work is The Citadel, which was made into a film in 1938, starring Robert Donat. Two years after The Citadel was published, How Green Was My Valley by Richard Llewellyn was published (also turned into a movie - in 1941, starring Walter Pigeon. Valley actually beat Citizen Kane to the Best Picture Oscar that year). Dramas set in Wales often looked to these two books / movies for inspiration, despite being set in the early part of the 20th Century. There was an expectation in London-centric circles that some parts of the UK (Wales, Scotland and the North East of England) hadn't changed that much since the inter-war years.
The commune fare little better, being a somewhat stereotyped bunch of vegetarian hippies. Cliff is trying to invent his own form of Quorn* - a meat substitute made from toadstools. (* Other meat substitutes are available).

Parallels can be drawn between Prof. Jones and BOSS / Stevens. Are they really all that different? Okay, one side wants to pollute the planet and enslave humanity for profit, and the other wants people to respect the environment and go vegan, but both think they are superior to everyone around them. Cliff believes that he knows what is best for the local community, and is quite prepared to foist his opinions on the wider community and dictate lifestyle choices.
The studio sessions for this story did not go according to plan, as we can see when the character of Elgin - the one sympathetic Global Chemicals employee - suddenly disappears from the narrative two thirds of the way in. Actor Tony Adams fell ill and so was unavailable to appear in the final studio block. A hitherto unseen character named James suddenly pops up to take on Elgin's role. He is played by series regular Roy Skelton - usually heard but not seen as the voice of the Daleks, amongst other aliens. He had just featured as the Spiridon Wester in the previous story, so was called in to help out at the last minute.
Captain Yates gets hypnotised by BOSS into killing the Doctor, but the mental conditioning is broken by the Doctor's new blue crystal. This event will also play out in the next season, as we see how the trauma has affected Yates.
Once BOSS is defeated, the Doctor using the crystal on Stevens to break the hold which the computer has over him, everyone gathers for a party back at the Nuthutch - the name which the locals have given to Cliff's commune. Jo announces that she is going to leave UNIT, as Cliff has just proposed to her. The Doctor gives her the crystal as a wedding present, before driving off alone into the sunset.
As companion departures go, it is one of the better efforts of the classic era of the show. Things have been set up since the start as Jo declines the trip to Metebelis III, and even risks a court martial by going against the Brigadier, intending to campaign against the organisation which he has been tasked with defending. We haven't seen the Doctor this moved by the departure of a companion since Susan left at the conclusion of The Dalek Invasion of Earth, and she was his kin.
Next time: it's the debut of the greatest companion of all time, as well as the debut of one of the series' best alien races.

Thursday 23 August 2018

F is for... Fifi

A savage canine creature kept as a pet by Helen A, ruler of the Earth colony on Terra Alpha. She doted on the animal, loving it more than her consort. When the Doctor and Ace arrived on the planet, they set in motion a chain of events which led to rebellion against her tyrannical ways. Fifi was despatched into the network of tunnels beneath the capital city to attack the Doctor and his friends who were hiding there. Ace engineered an explosion which injured Fifi, but Helen A sent it back into the tunnels to continue the hunt. One of the Doctor's friends, Errol Sigma, used his harmonica to create an avalanche of solidified sugar syrup which fell on the creature. As Helen A attempted to flee the planet, she saw the dying Fifi crawl out of the tunnels. Her rule had been based on enforced happiness, but she broke down in tears at seeing her beloved pet die.
The Doctor recognised the species as a Stigorax, and told Ace that he had encountered one before, in 25th Century Birmingham.

Appearances: The Happiness Patrol (1988).
  • Fifi was also one of the Rani's menagerie of aliens which appeared in the Children In Need mini adventure Dimensions In Time (1993).

F is for... Fibuli

Mr Fibuli acted as chief officer and technical expert to the Captain, the ruler of the planet Zanak. One of his main responsibilities was to maintain the massive time-jump engines which allowed the hollow world to transport itself across space to envelope other planets so that they could be stripped of their mineral wealth. He was also tasked with devising a weapon to act against the Mentiads - psychic individuals whose numbers grew every time Zanak made a time jump. He was constantly bullied by the Captain, and threatened with execution, even though his expertise was invaluable to his leader's plans. He was able to devise a machine which used various crystals to block the Mentiads's psychic powers. The Doctor and Romana used the TARDIS to prevent the planet from making a jump to Earth, whilst K9 generated a counter signal which allowed the Mentiads to sabotage the engines. Fibuli was killed in the resulting explosion, and the Captain was heartbroken at his death.

Played by: Andrew Robertson. Appearances: The Pirate Planet (1978).
  • Mr Fibuli was based on the character of Smee, Captain Hook's right-hand (hook?) man in Peter Pan, one of the many pirate references Douglas Adams used for this story.

F is for... Ffinch, Lt. Algernon

Lieutenant Algernon Ffinch was an officer with the Hanoverian army which had just defeated the Jacobite supporters of Bonnie Prince Charlie at the Battle of Culloden, in April 1746.
One of his tasks was to round up Jacobites who had survived the battle. A rather ineffectual soldier, who was regarded as a bit of a fop, his men soon captured the wounded Laird Colin McLaren, who was accompanied by his faithful piper Jamie McCrimmon. Also taken were the Doctor and his companion Ben. The Doctor's other friend, Polly, had managed to remain at liberty along with Colin's daughter Kirsty. Determined to free their friends, they decided to use Ffinch to help achieve this. Luring him into a trap, they managed to part him from his money. Later, in the town of Inverness, the women encountered him again at an inn. They were able to blackmail him into helping them.
After the Scots prisoners were saved from being transported to the West Indies as slave-workers -  a scheme being run by a corrupt solicitor named Grey - Polly and Kirsty had Ffinch alert his commanding officer. Ffinch and his men caught up with Grey and arrested him.

Played by: Michael Elwyn. Appearances: The Highlanders (1966 / 7).
  • Partner of the actress Alison Steadman, Elwyn played the recurring role of Sir Edward (Maid Marian's father) in the most recent BBC series of Robin Hood.

F is for... Ferrier, Astrid

Astrid Ferrier worked for a man named Giles Kent, who had once been a political ally of Salamander. The two fell out after Salamander began to seek power for himself, and he had Kent discredited. Astrid was an accomplished helicopter pilot. One day she learned that Salamander had been seen on a remote beach in Australia, not far from where she and Kent were based. She rushed to the scene when her fellow agents threatened to kill the would-be dictator. She wanted him alive. She was forced into fighting against her own colleagues to save what turned out to be the Doctor. He was almost identical in appearance to Salamander. Kent and Astrid realised that this similarity could be used by them to gather evidence against Salamander. Astrid arranged for Jamie and Victoria to be taken on as staff at the Central European Zone HQ, where one of Kent's few remaining allies was based. His name was Denes. When he was taken prisoner on fake charges, Astrid arranged an escape plan, but Denes was killed in the attempt.
Later, back in Australia, Astrid joined Kent at his caravan, which had been parked close to Salamander's research installation at Kenowa. She helped him feign his death so that he could move freely around the area. She came across a dying man, Swann, who pointed her towards a nearby cave. Descending into the tunnels she found a shelter full of people who believed that they were the survivors of an atomic war. They had been creating earthquakes and volcanic eruptions at Salamander's behest, thinking they were attacking their enemies when they were really helping him to gain control. Astrid was able to reveal the truth to them, and was shocked to find that Kent had been one of the instigators of this scheme. He really wanted to usurp Salamander's powers for himself, and had been manipulating her all along. Astrid helped the shelter dwellers escape to the surface when the dying Kent - shot by Salamander - self-destructed the complex.

Played by: Mary Peach. Appearances: The Enemy of the World (1967 / 8).

F is for... Fenric

An ancient evil entity, which the Doctor claimed had existed since the beginning of the universe. In the 3rd Century AD, the Doctor came face to face with Fenric, who could inhabit other beings' bodies, in the middle of a desert. The two played chess together, the Doctor winning. Fenric's life-force was trapped in a flask. This later fell into the hands of traders, who carried it into Europe. Capable of influencing the outside world, Fenric created a time storm which brought the Ancient One back through time from the far distant future of Earth. This was a Haemovore, last of the race of amphibious vampires who would evolve out of the human race after the planet had been destroyed by toxic waste. The Ancient One followed the flask, spreading the vampire taint through the region. The flask eventually came into the possession of Viking traders, who brought it with them to the north east of England. Fenric was working on a plan that would lead to its release. It manipulated the blood-lines of the Viking settlers, so that some of their descendants would all come together at a point during the Second World War. The Doctor had already spotted Fenric's influence in recent events - including the unlikely circumstances surrounding his companion Ace's transportation to Iceworld, and an unfinished chess game in the study of the 17th Century sorceress Lady Peinforte. The various unwitting agents of Fenric's deliverance it called its "wolves".
At a top secret naval base in Northumbria, the flask was found bricked up in a cellar. The Ancient One and a number of other Haemovores were summoned to attack the base. Two of the "wolves" were the base commander, Millington, and Professor Judson, who had created a deciphering computer which he called the Ultima Machine. Ace befriended a Soviet commando officer who had been sent to steal the machine - Captain Sorin. The Ultima Machine decoded some ancient Viking runes, which proved to be the key to unlock Fenric's prison. It took over Judson's body.
The Doctor set a trap for him - another chess game. Once again, Fenric could not solve it. Fearing its new body too weak, it transferred to a younger, fitter one - Sorin's. He was another of the "wolves".

Ace had also made friends with one of the WRENs - Kathleen Dudman - who had a baby girl named Audrey. Ace doted on the child, but disliked the name as it was the same as her mother's. When the Haemovores attacked, Ace sent Kathleen and the baby to her grandmother's address in south London. She then inadvertently gave Fenric the clue to beating the Doctor's chess puzzle when she saw that the British and Soviet soldiers were working together. The chess game could be won if the black and white pawns worked together. She told Sorin this, not realising he was the new host for Fenric. Fenric told Ace that she was also one of its "wolves". The baby would grow up to become the mother she despised, and it had been manipulating her ever since it sent her to Iceworld to meet the Doctor.
The base was full of weapons containing a highly toxic substance. Fenric ordered the Ancient One to release this into the oceans. The Doctor convinced the Ancient One that this would create the very world which had spawned it. Ace's faith in the Doctor prevented the creature from taking any action, but when he attacked that faith, it seized Fenric and forced it into a sealed chamber where Sorin's body was destroyed by the toxin. Fenric appeared to perish, as it had no other body to transfer into, though it may simply have been banished to some shadow dimension.

Played by: Dinsdale Landen (Judson), Tomek Bork (Sorin). Appearances: The Curse of Fenric (1989).
  • Fenric was named after Fenrir - the wolf who would kill Odin during Ragnarok, the battle which would mark the end of the world, according to Norse mythology.

Wednesday 22 August 2018

Story 199 - The Stolen Earth / Journey's End

In which the Doctor and Donna rush back to Earth, following the news that Rose Tyler has made contact. The Doctor fears that this may signify the breaking of the barriers between universes, which could mean the end of everything. However, all appears to be normal. A few moments later, however, the TARDIS is rocked by some external force. Returning to the doors, they see only space beyond. The ship has not moved, though. The Earth has gone...
Martha Jones is at UNIT's New York HQ when the shift occurs, and she sees that the sky is now full of alien planets. Sarah Jane Smith and her son Luke in Ealing, West London, witness the same phenomenon - as do Wilf Mott and Sylvia Noble in Chiswick, and the Torchwood team in Cardiff. Elsewhere in West London, Rose Tyler has arrived, crossing over from her parallel world.
The Doctor and Donna travel to the headquarters of the Shadow Proclamation to seek help in locating the missing planet. Here, the Shadow Architect informs them that the problem extends beyond the Earth. Other worlds have disappeared as well.
On Earth, a number of spaceships are identified approaching the planet. A message is picked up from them - revealing that they are Dalek ships. The craft begin to attack the planet, targeting military installations.

New York is hit. As UNIT HQ there comes under attack from ground troops, Martha's commander orders her to use Project Indigo to escape. This is a captured Sontaran teleport device. It takes Martha back to her mother's home in London. A communications signal is picked up at Torchwood, and at the homes of Sarah and Martha. Rose, meanwhile rescues Wilf and Sylvia when they are cornered by a Dalek. They had earlier seen many people being taken captive by the Daleks, with those failing to co-operate being exterminated. Rose goes to the Noble home, where they also pick up the communications signal. This is coming from ex-Prime Minister Harriet Jones - a special sub-wave network which had been developed by Mr Copper, whom the Doctor had encountered on the spaceship Titanic. It was designed to seek out everyone connected to the Doctor in the event of a scenario such as this. It allows all the parties to communicate with each other, although Wilf does not have a camera for his computer - so Rose can simply look on.

At the Shadow Proclamation, the Doctor is struggling to understand why these planets have been taken. Donna then reminds him that they have been hearing of other planets which have vanished - such as Pyrovillia. The Doctor adds in the planets which went missing in earlier times, and the assembled group of worlds combine to make a massive energy producing network. Finding them all is still a problem, but once again Donna comes up with the answer when she mentions the fact that bees have been disappearing. The Doctor tells her that many of these are actually extraterrestrial in origin. Sensing some impending catastrophe, they have gone home. Their trail can be followed, however. The Shadow Architect is talking about waging war against whoever is responsible, and wants the Doctor to lead the fight, but he and Donna rush off. The bee trail leads to the Medusa Cascade, but here the trail goes cold.
On Earth, Harriet and the Doctor's friends devise a means of broadcasting a call for his help. Sarah's super-computer Mr Smith will channel a signal to the Doctor's phone through all of the telephones on the planet, via the Torchwood Rift Manipulator. This will give away Harriet's location to the Daleks, so she transfers control over to Captain Jack at the Hub. On a massive space station at the heart of the cluster of planets, the Dalek Supreme orders units to attack the source of the sub-wave network. Harriet is killed. The plan works, however, as the TARDIS picks up the signal. The Doctor discovers that the planets have been hidden in a pocket of time, just out of synch with the rest of the universe.
The ship breaks through and materialises in London.

The Doctor is able to talk with his friends and learn what has been happening. However, someone else breaks into the conversation. The Doctor hopes it is Rose, but he is horrified to find that it is Davros, creator of the Daleks.
As well as the Project Indigo device, Martha had been given an Osterhagen Key. Harriet and Jack had forbidden her to use this, but Martha decides she must follow her commander's orders. She bids her mother goodbye and uses the teleport once again. This time she finds herself in a forest outside a castle in Germany. The custodian also knows of the Key, and tries to stop her using it.
In London, Sarah and Rose have taken to the streets in search of the TARDIS. Jack activates his Vortex manipulator to travel to the city, just as the Daleks locate the new source of the sub-wave network - the Torchwood Hub. Ianto and Gwen prepare for a Dalek attack. One of them overcomes the defences and breaks in.
The Doctor and Donna emerge from the TARDIS and see Rose. As he runs towards her, the Doctor fails to notice a Dalek which shoots him. Jack materialises and destroys it. Close by, Sarah finds herself confronted by a pair of Daleks. Jack, Rose and Donna take the Doctor into the TARDIS, where he begins to regenerate...

The Doctor uses the regeneration energy to heal his injuries, and siphons off the excess into his hand which had been cut off by the Sycorax leader, and which Jack had retained in a special container. Sarah is saved from the Daleks by the sudden arrival of Mickey Smith and Jackie Tyler, who have followed Rose over from the parallel Earth. At the Hub, Ianto and Gwen discover that their late colleague Tosh had set up an extra line of defence - a time lock. The Dalek is frozen in time. It can't get in, but they can't get out. The Dalek Supreme orders the capture of the TARDIS, and it is transported to their space station. This is an artificial planetoid which they call the Crucible. Seeing the TARDIS teleported away, Sarah decides to allow herself to be captured - so Mickey and Jackie follow suit, so they will be taken to where the Doctor and Rose are.
In the Crucible, the Doctor and his companions are forced to leave the ship. Donna lags behind, as she has been troubled by a strange double heart beat sound recently. The ship's doors suddenly lock of their own accord, trapping her inside. The Supreme then orders the destruction of the TARDIS, dropping it into the Crucible's energy core. Donna is drawn towards the disembodied hand, as the ship begins to break up around her. Touching it, she is hit by a blast of regeneration energy. The container smashes, and the hand grows into a duplicate of the Doctor. The TARDIS then dematerialises and reappears elsewhere in the Cascade, but the real Doctor and his friends believe it  - and Donna - destroyed.

Jack tricks the Daleks into exterminating him, so that he can revive after they have removed his body. The Doctor and Rose are taken to a vault where they meet Davros and Dalek Caan, now completely deranged, its casing torn open. It had re-entered the Time War and saved Davros, destroying its sanity in the process. It now has the gift of prophesy, and claims that one of the Doctor's companions will die. Davros tells the Doctor that he has created the ultimate weapon - the Reality Bomb - which breaks down all matter. The stolen planets are needed to generate its power. Elsewhere on the Crucible, Sarah, Mickey and Jackie find themselves about to be used as guinea-pigs to test the weapon. Sarah and Mickey manage to slip away, but Jackie stays to help someone. She has a device which can transport her, and uses it just before the Reality Bomb is used to disintegrate a number of captive humans. Jack joins them, having tracked their technology. Sarah has in her possession a warp star crystal, which harnesses incredible energies. If cracked open, it could destroy the Crucible.
Martha then contacts the Daleks from Germany, and tells them that she will deploy the Osterhagen Key. This operates a chain of nuclear devices buried across the planet - devised to prevent the Earth falling into hostile hands. Sarah and Jack also contact the Supreme and notify it of their weapon.
However, the Daleks simply transport Martha, Jack, Sarah, Mickey and Jackie to the vault, where they are all taken prisoner.

In the TARDIS, the new Doctor tells Donna that he was created partly from her making contact. He is half human, but she is now part Time Lord - a process known as meta-crisis. As Davros begins preparations to activate the Reality Bomb in earnest - which will wipe out all matter beyond the Medusa Cascade - the new Doctor and Donna take the TARDIS to the vault, armed with a device which should be effective against Daleks. Their arrival surprises everyone, not least the Doctor. Davros shoots them both down with electrical bolts from his hand before they can use their weapon. The shock activates the Time Lord half of Donna's new persona, and she starts to sabotage the Dalek systems. She sends them out of control. When the Supreme descends to the vault, Jack shoots it and destroys it, whilst Mickey holds Davros captive. Donna then helps to return the planets to their rightful times and places. The machine which does this then breaks down before the Earth can be returned. Donna and the new Doctor then decide between themselves to end the Dalek threat by self-destructing them - including the one which was threatening the Torchwood team. The Doctor is horrified by this, as it is an act of genocide. He ushers everyone into the TARDIS as the Crucible begins to break up. Davros refuses to go with them, and he curses Caan for not foreseeing this disaster. However, Caan had seen it, but thought that the Daleks did not deserve to survive. It again prophesies the death of one of the Doctor's friends. The TARDIS leaves just as the Crucible explodes.

The Doctor explains to everyone that the TARDIS has six sides to its control console as it should have six pilots. He has everyone operate a different section, then the ship drags the Earth back to its rightful place, using power from the Torchwood Rift Manipulator and from Mr Smith and K9 back at Sarah's home. Francine Jones, Wilf and Sylvia, and Ianto and Gwen find themselves back where they belong. The Doctor drops his friends off. Jack offers Martha a job with Torchwood, which she says she will think about, and Mickey decides to accompany them. There is nothing left for him on the parallel Earth, as his grandmother has now passed away. Sarah goes back home to her son.
The Doctor then takes the TARDIS back to Bad Wolf Bay on the parallel Earth. This is the last time it will ever be able to do so. Rose had wanted to stay with him, but he asks her to look after the new Doctor instead. As he is half human, he only has one heart and won't regenerate. They can grow old together. He reminds her that she once looked after him when he was battle scarred following the Time War, and she must do so again as the new Doctor was also born of war.
Once back in the TARDIS, Donna begins to act strangely. The Doctor tells her that the meta-crisis will kill her, as no human can sustain it. To save her life, he must remove the Time Lord part of her, but this will mean wiping all of her memories of him. She will become the person she was before she ever met him - and this is what Dalek Caan was alluding to. He takes her back to Chiswick and gives her over to the care of Wilf and her mother, warning them that she will die if she ever remembers her recent life. He then departs, travelling on alone once more...

The Stolen Earth / Journey's End was written by Russell T Davies, and was first broadcast on 28th June and 5th July, 2008. It marks the conclusion to Series 4, and the end of Donna Noble's adventures as a regular TARDIS travelling companion. The story is also the first crossover adventure, bringing in characters from The Sarah Jane Adventures and from Torchwood. Sarah is in her attic workroom when the Earth is moved, along with her son Luke (Tommy Knight). Her computer Mr Smith (voiced by Alexander Armstrong) features, and later we see a brief cameo from K9 (voiced as always by John Leeson). Mention is made of their young friends Clyde and Maria being away from London at the time. Captain Jack now only has Gwen Cooper (Eve Myles) and Ianto Jones (Gareth David-Lloyd) as colleagues, following the deaths of Tosh and Owen at the conclusion of Torchwood's second season.
The story doesn't just round off the story arc for the fourth series (with an explanation for the missing planets, vanishing bees and so on), it also acts as conclusion to certain story arc points which have existed since the very first episode of the revived series.
Reference is made to the half-human Doctor being similar to how Rose had first found the Ninth Doctor, bitter and full of rage against the Daleks. We finally get to see the Shadow Proclamation, who were first mentioned in Rose. They use the Judoon (Smith and Jones) as a police force.

All of the Doctor's companions created or employed since RTD took over are seen, as well as their family members. Martha visits her mother Francine (Adjoa Andoh) briefly. Rose encounters Donna's mother Sylvia (Jacqueline King) and her granddad Wilf (Bernard Cribbins). Jackie Tyler (Camille Coduri) isn't content to stay a home like the other parents, but comes along with Mickey (Noel Clarke), packing a huge gun. Only Pete Tyler is really missing from the party - left at home babysitting.
And let's face it, it is a party. This will be the final regular season episode written by RTD. He is about to move on, with only some special episodes planned for what will be David Tennant's last year as the Doctor. The story ends (almost) with everyone gathered round the TARDIS console, followed by a fireworks display. When the end finally does come for RTD, like Peter Jackson with LOTR: The Return of the King, he'll find it difficult to know when to say The End. (ROTK really, really should have closed on the ship sailing off into the Claude-like sunset). We get a foretaste of prolonged endings here as the Doctor has to say goodbye to all of the companions he has amassed through the course of the story.
Another arc ending is that of Dalek Caan of the Cult of Skaro, whom we first met back in Doomsday, which was the last time we visited Bad Wolf Bay as well. The big bad who is brought back from the classic series is Davros, now played excellently by Julian Bleach, who had impressed as the Rainmaker in From Out of the Rain, the series two Torchwood episode. He's first seen lurking in shadow, and only appears fully once he breaks into the sub-wave network - which reminds us that Harriet Jones (Penelope Wilton) also ends her story here. For fans of the classic series, the moment of recognition between Davros and Sarah Jane Smith is one to treasure. She was there on Skaro when the Daleks were first born, and Davros remembers.

In the end, however, this is the story of how Donna Noble died. Catherine Tate has been excellent throughout this season, proving all of the nay-sayers wrong. The ending is truly heartbreaking, and I certainly shed a tear or two along with Wilf - and still do on rewatching this story. Steven Moffat will try the same trick with the Doctor forgetting Clara, but that was nowhere near as effective as Donna's reversion to her old life.
I've pretty much mentioned all the cast who need to be mentioned. The German castellan encountered by Martha is played by Valda Aviks. She was impressed with Nick Briggs' pronunciation for the German speaking Daleks at the readthrough, as seen in the full length DW Confidential for the second episode. The other person to mention is Michael Brandon, who plays General Sanchez of UNIT at their New York offices. He's best known in the UK for the crime drama Dempsey and Makepeace, and for Americans as the narrator of Thomas the Tank Engine (Thomas and Friends in the US).

Overall, it stands up pretty well. There was always a danger that a story containing so many guest characters might fall apart from its own weight, but RTD gets away with it. The main characters get plenty to do, and even the more peripheral ones get their moments. Yes, the TARDIS-towing-the-Earth sequence might be a little sickly sweet for some, but the music saves it. Some fans were unhappy that Rose's return undermined her moving departure at the end of Doomsday, but having her get her very own Doctor to play with does seem the right way to close her story.
Things you might like to know:

  • Davros' appearance at first glance seems to go against established continuity (like that ever mattered in this programme). When last seen he had lost most of his body and was encased in a Dalek Emperor shell. The Time War easily reconciles this discrepancy. He has lost his organic hand (seen being shot off in Revelation of the Daleks), and it has been replaced with a metal gauntlet. We'll later see a younger, battle-ready Rassilon, much different from the jovial old bloke seen in The Five Doctors. The Time Lords obviously reincarnated their greatest leader from a time when he was at the peak of his powers. If the Daleks were going to bring back Davros then they would clearly go for the version who went to Skaro a prisoner then single-handedly (no pun intended) overthrew the Supreme Council and set himself up as Emperor - the one who had just lost his last hand and who could now fire energy bolts.
  • Terry Molloy, who had played Davros in his last three TV appearances as well as on-going audio performances, was in the running to play the part again - only just missing out to Bleach.
  • Had Torchwood gone to a third episodic series, it was planned that Mickey Smith would have joined the team on a regular basis.
  • In keeping with the last two season finales, we have a couple of cameo guest appearances. This time we get chat show host, and one time Lily Savage, Paul O'Grady, and Richard Dawkins. Dawkins was married to Lalla Ward at the time (the second incarnation of Romana). It must be said that an evolutionary biologist would not be the obvious first choice to comment on astronomical matters. (But then again, maybe Patrick Moore couldn't make it into a TV studio what with all those Dalek spaceships attacking).
  • Ward and Dawkins were very close friends of Douglas Adams (one-time script editor of Doctor Who and responsible for writing one of its greatest ever stories). Whilst it was a current news story at the time of writing these episodes, the disappearance of bees could also be said to be inspired by the departure of the dolphins from the doomed Earth in The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy.
  • Some other references to previous stories include one of the missing planets being Clom (from Love & Monsters). Then there is Callufrax Minor (another reference to Douglas Adams, and his story The Pirate Planet).
  • The sub-wave network was created by the Mr Copper Foundation - the character played by Clive Swift from Voyage of the Damned.
  • The Daleks attack and shoot down the Valiant - UNIT's flying aircraft carrier which was introduced in The Sound of Drums and was more recently seen in this season's Sontaran two-parter.
  • Trying to work out who might have moved the Earth, the Doctor mentions that someone tried to do it before. This might be a reference to the Daleks in The Dalek Invasion of Earth, or it might equally refer to the Time Lords doing it (and renaming the planet Ravolox) in the first section of Trial of a Time Lord - the bit also known as The Mysterious Planet.
  • A scene which never made it beyond the draft stage saw the Daleks exterminate the Prime Minister - one Aubrey Fairchild. Davies liked the name, and so used it in The Next Doctor.
  • And one scene which was filmed, but was cut only after much deliberation (see RTD's The Writer's Tale book) was the throw forward to the Christmas Special, where some Cybermen appeared inside the TARDIS. It's on the DVD box-set.
  • Another deleted scene has the Doctor give Rose and his half-human self a piece of coral-like material - with which to grow a new TARDIS.
  • The apparent regeneration was withheld from preview copies of the first episode, so came as a huge surprise to everyone, and got people talking for the whole of the following week. Of course, those of us in the know knew that Tennant had already been seen filming scenes for The Next Doctor, so they were never going to spring a surprise new Doctor on us.
  • "Osterhagen" also got people speculating - but it is just an anagram of Earths Gone.
  • Davies originally intended for the Shadow Proclamation to be made up of various aliens previously seen in the series, including Adipose, Slitheen, Vespiforms, Krillitanes and, would you believe it, a Kroton. As it was, just a few Judoon featured.
  • Originally Davies had intended the story to end with Donna hearing the TARDIS dematerialise, with a faint hint of recognition on her features (implying that the new Donna might still exist within her). However, exec-producer Julie Gardner pointed out that children might think that this recognition meant that, as the Doctor had warned, she was going to die.
  • German versions of this story don't have the Daleks say "Exterminieren!"They dub the word "Vernichten!" instead - meaning "destroy".
  • Right from when he had his hand chopped off in The Christmas Invasion, Davies had always intended that it would return at some point and grow into a second Doctor.

Thursday 16 August 2018

Inspirations - Planet of the Daleks

1973's Planet of the Daleks was Terry Nation's first solo contribution to the series since 1965, when he had penned Mission to the Unknown. He had come up with many of the concepts for The Daleks' Master Plan, though it was mostly scripted by Dennis Spooner, Donald Tosh and Douglas Camfield.
David Whitaker had then taken over writing for the Daleks, before they were removed from the programme altogether. This story also marked the first time that an adventure specifically designed to feature the Daleks had been written since Evil of the Daleks, since they had only been a late addition to what became Day of the Daleks.
As we mentioned last time, this story forms the second half of a bigger anniversary tale. Frontier in Space had shown the background to the invasion which the Daleks intended to launch on the back of a manufactured war between Earth and Draconia. That story had ended with the Doctor badly wounded, and using the TARDIS telepathic circuits to ask the Time Lords for assistance - guiding him after the departing Dalek spaceship.
One of the first problems we hit is that the new storyline pretty much dispenses with that set-up.  There is no dialogue concerning the events of the previous 6 episodes - no mention of the Master or of the Draconians at all. The Gold Dalek is absent from Spiridon. Nation seems to have simply set out to write his own story, with no regard as to how it fitted with Malcolm Hulke's narrative. The Episode One cliffhanger even has the Doctor shocked to find that there are Daleks on this planet - even though he specifically asked the Time Lords to take him to the Dalek invasion base. What few links there are we can safely attribute to Terrance Dicks.

What we do get is Terry Nation ignoring everything that has happened in Doctor Who since he last wrote for it. This is mainly down to the fact that he has obviously never kept up watching it, being too busy working on various ITC Spy-Fi series or failing to get the Daleks a series of their own.
Never one to overthink an idea, he delivered to Barry Letts and Terrance Dicks a greatest hits package featuring elements of his old 1960's stories. He originally titled it "Destination: Daleks", and so set it on the planet Destinus. You'll recall that he was the chief culprit when it came to naming planets after their chief characteristic. Skaro was scarred by war, Aridius was dry and arid, Marinus had its acid sea, Mira was swampy, and Desperus was full of desperate criminals. Nation also gave each episode its own title, unaware that this practice had died out in 1966.
The story begins in the TARDIS, and Nation has some outdated views on just what the Doctor's space / time machine exactly is. To him, it is just a glorified spaceship. Back in The Chase, he had the Doctor claim that they would all suffocate if he suspended the ship in space for any great length of time - suggesting that it carries a finite oxygen supply. The Monk is later congratulated on getting round this, by developing a form of "drift control". In the opening episode of this story, the TARDIS becomes encrusted with a mass of vegetable spores - which is enough to cut off its oxygen supply. Nation thinks that the ship has to draw its air from the outside. But how can it then run out of oxygen? If air can't get in, then where does the air that was in the ship escape to? Or did the comatose Doctor manage to snore it all up? (Maybe - Pertwee did have a mighty nose). We see a hitherto unseen secondary oxygen supply - three cylinders of air which are clearly not bigger on the inside. Two of them are empty and the third has only a tiny amount left in it.
The scanner was definitely colour in The Three Doctors, but now it is black & white. Perhaps the Doctor is trying to save money. (Cue very old joke about buying a black and white dog cos the licence is cheaper...).

The Doctor is rescued by a party of Thals - the race who have never featured in any other Dalek story since the first one he wrote. They are led by Taron - a name well known to Nation fans as he uses some permutation of it in most of his writings. Terry N becomes Taron, Tarrant and so forth. And Taron's love interest, Rebec, gets her name from Nation's daughter Rebecca.
It turns out that these Thals know all about the events of that first Dalek story, as they have heard of the Doctor and the TARDIS, and know that he had three travelling companions - whom the Doctor then name-checks.
We should point out that Spiridon is a jungle planet - at least while the script needs it to be. Nation loves his jungles. The forest on Skaro was never called a jungle, but that is what it looked like, and we had a lengthy march through a mutation-filled swamp. Once we get to later Nation-Dalek stories, he uses jungle settings for Mechanus, Mira and Kembel. Nation was a huge fan of cinema in his youth, skipping school during the war to watch movies as often as he could get away with it. He clearly liked war movies, as he uses tropes from this genre throughout his work, and it would not be much of a guess to say that he loved war films set in jungle terrain - with John Wayne et al fighting the Japanese. There is a lot of jungle guerrilla warfare going on in these six episodes.
Meanwhile, Jo, whose idea of jungle-suitable clobber includes a rain mac over a padded jacket and woolly gloves, has gotten herself infected by the nasty Spiridon plant life - the same ones who smothered the TARDIS. They are named Fungoids - the exact same term used by Ian Chesterton to describe the massive mushroom-shaped plants on Mechanus.
Nation also likes his hostile plant life. Apart from the Fungoids, he also had strangling vines in the third episode of Keys of Marinus, and the Varga Plants in Mission to the Unknown. The Slyther had a touch of the vegetable about it come to think about it. As well as the spore-spitting Fungoids here, we also get the Eye-Plants, and another plant which sends tendrils out to grab any unwary Thal soldiers who may be in the vicinity.

The natives on this planet are invisible, and the Daleks are studying them so that they too can become invisible. Again, this isn't new for Nation. He had previously introduced the Visians of the planet Mira, who were also invisible.
Some other recycling includes:
A Thal falling in love with the Doctor's companion (as with Ganatus and Barbara in The Daleks).
From the same story we have one of the characters hiding in a Dalek casing, and just as we think they have been blown up by real Daleks it transpires that they got out in the nick of time.
Then there is the escape up a shaft (a lift in the first story and an air duct here), with a lone Dalek in pursuit - which is destroyed when someone drops something down on top of it.
Also from The Daleks we have speeches about war / pacifism - between the Doctor and Codal and later the Doctor and Taron here, and between Ian and Alydon in the earlier story).
This is the first time since that The Daleks that one of the regulars is shot and wounded by a Dalek, producing paralysis in their legs (Ian then, the Doctor himself now).
From The Dalek Invasion of Earth we get the use of plague as a weapon. Here, the Daleks intend to release a plague into the jungle which will destroy all life not immunised against it. Plague will come to be an obsession for Nation, as we will see when we look at later stories by him, and of course he will later write a whole series about a plague-decimated Earth (Survivors).
Two earlier Nation-Dalek stories featured the Doctor locked in a cell and having to use his scientific knowledge to work out the means of escape.
From Mission to the Unknown we have the secret mission going wrong when the ship crash-lands (Marc Cory's then, the Thals' now), as well as the Daleks using their firepower to destroy a whole spaceship.
An unintended homage to Evil of the Daleks, for which Nation can't be blamed, is the inclusion of Louis Marx toy Daleks in the grand finale. (The person who can be blamed is Cliff Culley, who was also responsible for the dinosaurs in Invasion of the Dinosaurs, and the Action Man tank in Robot).

Even the Peter Cushing movies get a nod, as one of Nation's Dalek props from the films gets a black and gold respray (plus jam jars on its dome and a torch stuck on its eye-stalk) to become the Dalek Supreme. Nation hated the idea of an Emperor Dalek - his lead villains were always Supremes. The first appearance of the Supreme is even accompanied by a little music cue from the first movie, courtesy of Dudley Simpson. From The Daleks' Master Plan we get senior Daleks exterminating their underlings when they screw things up.
We mentioned above that this is a jungle planet - but only when the script needs it to be. In the second half of the story the idea of an ice volcano is introduced, so Spiridon suddenly gets an icy location wasteland right next door to the hot and steamy studio jungle.
The word allotrope is mentioned - specifically an allotrope of ice. This word was first coined by a Swedish scientist in 1841, to describe how some chemical elements can exist in different physical forms. The most obvious one is carbon, which can be coal, graphite or diamond. Water doesn't count (even though it can be gas, liquid or solid) as it isn't an element but a compound (hydrogen and oxygen).
The liquid ice proves to be the means of defeating the Daleks, as a Thal bomb is used to blow a hole in the chamber where the Dalek army is stored, causing it to flood with ice. Earlier, the Doctor claimed that extreme cold kills Daleks, yet this freezing deluge is said to only put the army back into hibernation.

Whereas Barbara and Ganatus spent a lot of time together on Skaro, long enough for romance to realistically blossom, Latep seems to fall for Jo after about 5 minutes. The poor boy seems to think that Jo will give up TARDIS travel and go live with him on Skaro on the strength of their brief time together.
 Jo then shows a remarkable knowledge of the TARDIS controls, as she is able to summon up a picture of the Earth on the scanner. Why? - because that's where she wants to go.
Next time, Jo returns to Earth, and this time she is staying put as she meets a younger, sexier version of the Doctor. The Doctor is envious, but it is other people who turn green...

Tuesday 14 August 2018

Story 198 - Turn Left

In which the Doctor and Donna explore an exotic market on the planet of Shan Shen. Donna wanders away from the Doctor and encounters a fortune teller, who is strangely insistent that she have a reading. Once inside, the fortune teller begins to ask her about her life - especially as it relates to the Doctor. She asks what Donna thinks her life might have been like had she never met him. Donna is aware of a scuttling movement behind her back. Suddenly a large black beetle-like creature leaps onto her back, and Donna finds herself transported back to a day long before she encountered the Doctor. She had the offer of a job with HC Clements, but her mother insisted that she take another job in a print copy shop, which she feels is more suited to her skills. Instead of turning left, and going to HC Clements - which leads to the Doctor - Donna gives in to pressure and turns right instead...
That following Christmas Eve - 2007 - Donna is at the pub drinking with her friends. One of them seems unsettled, continually staring at her shoulder. Another friend calls everyone outside, and they see a massive star-shaped craft gliding over the city - the Racnoss Webstar. It begins to fire lethal energy bolts at the city below, but is then shot down by the army. Running towards the river, Donna sees some soldiers removing a dead body. A UNIT soldier radios his HQ to announce that the Doctor is dead - drowned before he could regenerate. A blonde-haired young woman runs up to the cordon and asks Donna about what has happened. When she tells her of the man's death, the woman walks away.

Some months later, Donna finds herself out of a job, as the draining of the Thames on Christmas Day has caused economic upheaval in the city. There is a story on the news about a London hospital being transported to the Moon. The sole survivor tells the interviewer that trainee doctor Martha Jones was one of those who perished trying to save others, along with a journalist named Sarah Jane Smith and her young companions.
Going out for a walk, Donna encounters the same young woman she had seen that night - wearing the identical clothes. She too seems perturbed by something on Donna's shoulder. The woman tells her that she and her family should get out of London next Christmas, and seems to know that she has a raffle ticket which has a Christmas hotel break as first prize. Donna's ticket does win, and so she, Sylvia and Wilf all head for the country. On switching on the TV on Christmas morning they see a news bulletin about a Titanic replica spaceship heading for central London. The maid who delivers their breakfast is the next to see something on Donna's back, and this time she catches the briefest glimpse of a black shape. Rushing outside, they see a mushroom cloud rise on the horizon. London has been destroyed.
Homeless, they are sent up to Leeds, where they find that they have been billeted in a house which they have to share with two large families. Their sleeping space is the kitchen. Whilst Wilf attempts to keep everyone's spirits high, Sylvia sinks deeper into depression. Promised aid from the United States is cancelled after that nation sees millions of citizens perish - their fat transformed into swarms of tiny creatures.

One evening they hear gunshots in the street outside. Troops are firing at their vehicles, whose exhausts are pumping out toxic fumes. One of the soldiers aims his rifle at Donna - claiming to have seen something on her back. Donna then sees the young woman again, and goes to speak to her. The night sky is lit up by a wall of flame, which burns away the smog. The woman tells Donna that the Torchwood team achieved this, but at the cost of their own lives, whilst their leader was taken away a prisoner of aliens called Sontarans. The woman tells Donna that none of this was ever supposed to happen - that she was supposed to make sure it didn't happen. She tells Donna that a time will come very soon when she will come with her, as she needs her help.
Donna goes to visit Wilf one night soon afterwards. He is stargazing. As they talk, he announces that the stars seem to be going out. Donna sees whole sections of the night sky turn black. The woman appears - and Donna knows that it is time for her to go with her. They go to a military base where Donna sees lots of equipment linked up to an old Police Call Box. Nearby is a ring of large mirrors. In command is a soldier from UNIT - Captain Magambo. The woman tells her that time has gone wrong, but they can set things right by sending her back in time to the moment when things changed. The mirrors allow Donna to see the black beetle on her back. She agrees to go, thinking that this world will die but she will live. As she departs, the woman tells her that she must also die.

Donna finds herself back in 2007, on the day that she turned left instead of right. She must stop herself doing this - but is horrified to find that she is miles away from where she ought to be. With time running out, she realises what she must do. As the woman said, she must die so that the world she came from can never exist. Unable to get to the location where she and her mother are about to turn, Donna jumps in front of a lorry. Seeing the traffic jam build up, Donna ignores her mother and turns left - towards HC Clements and the Doctor. As the other Donna lies dying, she sees the woman for the final time, and she whispers something in her ear...
Back on Shan Shen, the beetle drops dead from her back, and the fortune teller runs off. The Doctor arrives and Donna tells him of what she has experienced - recalling all of her alternative existence. The Doctor identifies the dead insect as a Time Beetle, which the Trickster has been known to employ to alter timelines. He is intrigued by the description of the blonde-haired young woman. Donna never knew her name, but she informs him of what she whispered in her ear. She said the words "Bad Wolf". Alarmed at what this might signify, he rushes outside and finds that all the text surrounding them has altered to the words "Bad Wolf" - even on the TARDIS. Asking what this means, the Doctor tells her that it might be the end of the universe...

Turn Left was written by Russell T Davies, and was first broadcast on Saturday 21st June, 2008. The episode is designed to set up the season finale and the return of Rose Tyler, and features a lot of the story arc elements. Series 2 and 3 had featured episodes in which the Doctor and companion had hardly featured, due to double-banking. For Series 4, Davies went with a story in which Donna featured only a little (Midnight), and another in which the Doctor hardly appeared - this one. David Tennant is only seen briefly in the opening sequence, then again for the conclusion once Donna has broken free of the Time Beetle. He doesn't even feature as his own drowned corpse.
A number of Series 3 and 4 stories are referenced as we get to see alternative outcomes - what might have happened had the Doctor not been there to save us. These are all Earthbound stories - beginning with The Runaway Bride, where Donna first appeared. By not getting the job at HC Clements, someone else has been dosed with Huon Particles. That person has not told the Doctor when to stop, and he has drowned as the Racnoss lair beneath the Thames Barrier has flooded. We then see that the draining of the Thames has had implications for the city, with traffic banned from crossing it. The Thames drained in the real timeline, but does not seem to have had the same impact.
We then learn that the Royal Hope Hospital had Sarah Jane Smith investigating instead of the Doctor when it was transported to the Moon by the Judoon, and she is killed when the air runs out, along with Martha Jones, Luke Smith and his friends.

The Titanic spaceship then does crash into Buckingham Palace, wiping out London. In Voyage of the Damned the collision was supposed to destroy the entire planet. The augur Lucius Petrus Dextrus in The Fires of Pompeii had told Donna that she has something on her back -  and now we know that it is the Time Beetle which certain individuals can see. He also told the Doctor that "she is returning" - a reference to Rose. Once the Noble clan are relocated to Leeds, the Adipose are activated in the USA instead of London, leading to millions of deaths. Sylvia mentions the disappearance of the bees once more. Despite the destruction of southern England, the Sontarans still go ahead with their attempt to turn the planet into a clone-feeding planet using ATMOS devices. Presumably Luke Rattigan had other factories in the north of the country. Instead of the Doctor, it is the Torchwood team who defeat them - costing Gwen Cooper and Ianto Jones their lives, with Captain Jack Harkness taken back to Sontar as a prisoner. Lastly, Wilf sees the stars going out - which foreshadows Davros' Reality Bomb in the next story.
Clips from all these stories are used throughout the episode, sometimes inserted into the action and at other times translated to TV news reports.

A special mention must be made of the core cast - Catherine Tate, Jacqueline King and Bernard Cribbins. All give exceptional performances. Joining them are Chipo Chung as the Fortune Teller. She had previously appeared in Utopia as Chantho. Noma Dumezwemi makes her first appearance as UNIT's Captain Magambo, and Joseph Long plays Rocco Colasanto, head of one of the families whom the Nobles have to share digs with. He'll be back, as the Pope, in Extremis.

Overall, a great episode with wonderful performances. It's a what if...? story, which the series has never really tackled before. You could argue that it is also a clips show, but that does it a disservice. US television often resorts to this kind of episode, but it usually involves the characters sitting around reminiscing as an excuse for a cheap episode. Here we have a strong story in its own right.
Things you might like to know:

  • The Trickster who is behind this plan to alter time is a character from The Sarah Jane Adventures, in which he appeared three times. He thrives on chaos, and has previously targeted Sarah Jane as she is an ally of the Doctor. He made it clear that he really wanted to remove the Doctor to create maximum chaos.
  • Another link to a previous story is the inclusion of UNIT's Private Harris. He's the one who reports the finding of the Doctor's body. He had earlier appeared in the Sontaran two-parter.
  • The Christmas Invasion also gets a nod when the BBC news reader states that images of the Titanic are coming from the Guinevere range of satellites.
  • Owing to a mistake, the extras who turned up to appear in the Shan Shen market scenes were informed that they were gong to get more money. When they learned that it was not as much as they were led to believe, many of them left again.
  • Sarah Jane Smith is said to be working for Metropolitan magazine - a reference going back to Planet of the Spiders. Which also featured large black arthropods which clung to people's backs and became invisible.
  • This is the second episode to feature Rose tending to someone who has been run over by a car, in both instances the result of alternative timelines. The other is, of course, Father's Day.
  • Most of Billie Piper's scenes were shot early in the series' production. She claimed that she had forgotten how to play Rose, and had to watch some of her old episodes.
  • Davies was so far behind schedule writing this episode that he had to miss a scheduled appearance at the National Television Awards. Part of this was down to rewrites necessitated by the death of Howard Attfield (Geoff Noble).
  • The latest issue of DWM was released on the Thursday between this episode airing and The Stolen Earth. It was rebranded Bad Wolf magazine on this occasion - in keeping with all the text transforming to this phrase at the conclusion of the episode.